GROW Clark County: Women Founders

Insights from Four Trailblazing Entrepreneurs


By Monica Santos-Pinacho

CREDC’s second Grow Clark County event of the year featured a dynamic panel of women founders from across the region who shared stories about their journey starting and growing their businesses in Clark County – including the challenges they faced and what it took to innovate in a fast-changing environment.

The panel—moderated by CREDC Board of Directors Vice Chair and Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt Shareholder Lisa Lowe—included:

  • Allie Magyar, founder and CEO of event management software company Hubb. In just six years, Allie has led the company to achieve impressive regional recognition, including this year’s Technology Association of Oregon's Emerging Company of the Year, Vancouver Business Journal's Innovator of the Year and inclusion in Portland Business Journal's 100 Fastest-Growing Private Companies.
  • Callie Christensen, co-founder of children’s toy company Slumberkins. Along with Kelly Oriard, they co-founded the company in 2015 and have reached great heights, including an appearance on Shark Tank and, most recently, landed a TV deal with The Jim Henson Company.
  • Miriam Kim, co-founder and COO of the leading developer and innovator of connected kitchen products Perfect Company. With 12 years at Intel under her belt, Miriam is a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded two other successful companies: Ensequence and Pure Imagination.
  • Lisa Schauer, president of leadership development firm PointNorth Consulting. A champion of women in leadership roles, Lisa became the first female partner and the first female Board Director at MacKay Sposito and helped found H-RoC Political Action Committee to advance women leaders in Southwest Washington.

Below are key pieces of insight from this impressive group of Women Founders, highlighting their motivation, entrepreneurial spirit and advice for others looking to embark on their own entrepreneurial journey. We hope they inspire and motivate you as much as they did us!  

(Quotes have been slightly edited for brevity and clarity.)

Motivation and what keeps them going…

“82% of people don’t trust their bosses. 77% of people believe that integrity is one of the most important characteristics to have in a leader. Values have to be more than just words on a wall, they have to be behavior…As humans, we just want to connect. How do we find ways to connect, and how do we do [it] with a thread of ethics, integrity and character? That’s what really motivates me.” – Lisa

“When there are days when I feel I can’t get out of bed, I tell myself [‘you are very lucky to be pursuing this dream’].” – Miriam

“Being [both] educators and moms ourselves goes hand-in-hand with the passion that gets us out of bed every day. There are real issues that families face every day. Our mission is to normalize [important and often times tough] conversations and empower parents to be in the driver seat of their children’s social and emotional development.” – Callie

Entrepreneurship is a constant roller coaster – you may be on a total high one day then something comes in that rocks your world. Being able to deal with that constant churn [is critical]. When you are doing something you love, surrounded by people that believe in the same thing, it makes it easy to wake up and be inspired every day.” – Allie

What they wish they knew before starting their own business…

Know your vision and your mission to its core [early on], so that you can stay focused as opportunities come your way.” – Callie

“Patience and managing expectations. [Know] what is reasonable in year one versus what you hope to aspire in year five.”  – Lisa

“You will get a lot of no’s before you get a yes – and it hurts. Get yourself ready for it. Know that it is normal. All you need are a few yes’s – and you’ll get them.” – Miriam

“When I started doing this—at 18—I had this wild, crazy idea that things would get easier in the future, and I’ve been telling myself that for the last 20 years. I think it’s really important to realize there’s no perfect future. There will always be struggles, it’s always a different type of struggle. Be sure you take time to experience life and enjoy what you are doing…There is no perfect future state – its only right now, enjoy every stage.” – Allie

Lessons from the biggest challenges they had to overcome…

“As an entrepreneur, there is a false stigma that you are supposed to know everything, that you should be able to be the unicorn and scale... You have to be willing to ask for help. Utilize the amazing resources that we have in this area. There is nothing like the Vancouver-Portland area as support for early stage entrepreneurs. It’s okay to not know everything. [Be] willing to be vulnerable, open up and ask for help and support…”  – Allie

“In 2014, it became apparent that to get to the next level, we needed to raise money. [My husband] and I didn’t know how to that. You have to network, network, network.” – Miriam

“[Have] a transitioning mindset [where] we give ourselves some grace that it takes time to build a business and assemble the right team. [Manage] the difference between moving too quickly and being strategic enough to move at the pace that makes the most sense.” – Lisa

Understand fundraising basics and what it means to take on investors for a business – taking money from a VC versus and Angel [Fund]. As educators, we had no exposure to that at all. Business finance has been our biggest challenge, and understanding [the best options on] how to scale a business...” – Callie

Their take on the F word (failure)…

Failure is what has driven me to everything I have been able to do. There is nothing like failing – you have to give yourself a little moment [to] grieve it because it is a real thing, but you also have to look at it as an opportunity to [see] what [you] can learn from [it]...” – Allie

“Slumberkins is the only business I’ve ever owned or started. Initially, we took not winning Shark Tank very hard; however now when people ask us ‘did you win Shark Tank?’ we say, actually yes! The whole process made us better business owners – even filling the application. It was a great platform for us to tell our story and America really resonated with our mission and what we are trying to accomplish.” – Callie

“…There are failures that happen every day, and it’s how you recover. You have to surround yourself with people that will help lift you up – inside and outside your organization. [It’s a] combination of reflection and continuing to more forward – look positively at what [you] learned, what will [you do and not do] again.” – Lisa

If you sign up to be an entrepreneur, it’s a life of uncertainty. As long as you keep your eye on the price, somehow it always works out.” – Miriam

Final words of wisdom…

“What’s inspiring is when you [find] a passion for something.” – Miriam

“For me, women in leadership is an area that really gets me motivated. When I see a young leader, who has found their voice and they are using it, that keeps me motivated.” – Lisa

See the bigger vision and find the people who will make it possible. Your quality of life depends on who you surround yourself with. Recognize what they are good at and what you are not good at. You need grit and determination in the early days, then be able to identify who you need to help you scale the business.” – Callie

“There’s no better time than what’s in front of you. Be willing to take the leap when the opportunity presents itself and don’t be afraid.” – Allie

Special thank you to our sponsors Zenith Properties NW, Kaiser Permanente, iQ Credit Union and Opsahl Dawson for making the event possible and to Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt Shareholder Lisa Lowe for being a fantastic panel moderator.

Since 2015, GROW Clark County has served as a forum to showcase the broad range of businesses in the region, spotlighting the people driving innovation and empowering connections with entrepreneurs pushing the local economy forward. GROW Clark County aims to help build connections and open opportunities for the business community – from groundbreaking startups to thriving business looking to interact with other businesses and find resources that can help them achieve short and long-term business goals.

The next GROW Clark County event is coming up in September. Register for our mailing list here or follow us on facebook, twitter or LinkedIn for more details as soon as they become available.  

Home Depot continues to expand footprint

Vancouver isn’t the first place you think of when discussing Fortune 25 companies, but that hasn’t stopped one from quietly growing its local operations.

The Home Depot, which had more than $100 billion in revenues last year, has been growing locally through the QuoteCenter, a software company it purchased in 2013. Using the center as a technological solutions provider for the entire corporate operation, Home Depot is expanding its Vancouver footprint with a new building and hiring spree that could double its local workforce in coming years.

“People don’t really know about QuoteCenter in this community,” said Mike Lee, manager for corporate talent acquisition. “To have a $1.3 billion company in their backyard is really amazing, and few people know we’re here.”

The QuoteCenter got started about a decade ago as a specific product for buying customizable trusses, which are a component of attic construction. Trusses come in standard sizes, but most of them are customized to fit individual homes.

“Obviously you’re not going to design your home around a truss, so you need a way to shop for what you need,” Lee said.

Home Depot was selling trusses, but because of the customizable sizes, the company was also getting lots of errors and returns on products.

“It ended up being nothing more than expensive firewood for Home Depot,” Lee said.

Home Depot did a contractor search for a solution and ended up selecting the QuoteCenter to build the company’s software for truss sales, which led to an even closer relationship between the two businesses.
“We solved Home Depot’s truss problem,” Lee said.

Not long after, Home Depot realized it was also having problems with special orders, and it noticed it had a gap in services for professional contractors. So, Home Depot purchased the QuoteCenter and retooled it to become what is basically Home Depot’s professional software shop.

“They acquired us to build a system to solve their quote problem just like the truss problem, and today we’re a big part of Home Depot’s business,” Lee said.

Prior to purchasing the company, Home Depot industrial customers only had two ways to purchase items. They could go into the store, in which case they’d be subject to availability and price fluctuations, or they could go to HomeDepot.com and order in bulk, in which case they’d have no control over which specific vendor the materials were purchased from.

“The QuoteCenter is a third way for our customers,” Lee said. “It’s a software application that today makes up the lion’s share of contractor interactions with store associates. You can tell our Pro Desk what you need, and they use QuoteCenter to build a custom quote and facilitate a sale. You have control over a lot of things you don’t in the first two methods.”

With QuoteCenter, contractors can control which vendors are used and they can get competitive price estimates. They also have access to a variety of discounts and can control how product is delivered to the site, such as by boom truck, delivered to the curb or lifted up to a roof.

Now Home Depot, which is celebrating its 40th year in business, is using QuoteCenter as a key method to expand its business and pursue the lucrative professional contractor market.

Do-it-yourself revenues, once the company’s mainstay, have remained stable for Home Depot for several years. But that market is saturated and unlikely to grow much more, Lee said.

Prior to the software launch, contractors had been using the Home Depot’s website, but with little control over pricing or suppliers, it wasn’t convenient enough to be a major business draw for them. With QuoteCenter, that’s changed significantly, Lee said.

“Now the pro contractor is most likely to use our QuoteCenter,” Lee said. “And the pro contractor market share is huge. We’re talking a ginormous amount of money that far exceeds exponential growth of our annual revenues.”

In the past several years Home Depot has been positioning itself through acquisitions to grab up more of that pro contractor market. Along with the QuoteCenter, two years ago Home Depot bought a company called Interline, a home repair and maintenance products seller, for $2 billion, to beef up its product offerings.

And in 2017, Home Depot decided to grow the QuoteCenter’s operations in Vancouver. The company broke ground on a new building that October, which will include two floors of office space for about 215 people, Lee said.

“It’s a major deal,” Lee said. “It’s also a major deal for Home Depot to establish a corporate presence on the West Coast. Most operations are out of Atlanta.”

That presence is also a huge deal for the local economy, said Max Ault, interim president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC).

“We are very excited to see the continued growth of The Home Depot QuoteCenter in Vancouver,” Ault said. “It is rewarding to see the collaboration of both private- and public-sector partners proactively working to meet the needs of one of our region’s fastest growing companies. The Home Depot QuoteCenter’s continued investment in this region demonstrates that Clark County is a compelling choice for software and technology companies who value access to a talented workforce and a high quality of life.”

As part of Home Depot, the QuoteCenter has also seen rapid growth in recent years. In 2017, the QuoteCenter had $1.3 billion in revenues, up from $650 million in 2016 and $400 million in 2015, Lee said.

“We were at 50 employees a few years ago,” Lee said. “In the last 18 months we’ve grown to 108. Our new building will fit 215, and we’re just continuing to grow.”

The company expects to hire another 20 to 25 people locally this year, and is primarily looking for employees with experience in the software industry.

“We’re very competitive with the major and notable employers of this area,” he said of wages and benefits.
A grand opening ceremony will be held at the Home Depot QuoteCenter in Vancouver at a later date this year.

Clark County Main Street Day: Touring the Heart of our Cities

By: Brittany Bagent, Director of Strategy

Elevating the quality of place is a critical component of economic development as we work to recruit new companies and talent to our region. One of the three strategic goals in CREDC’s recently adopted Economic Development Plan is to lead efforts that help tell the story of place in Clark County.  

To that end, CREDC collaborated with Vancouver’s Downtown Association, Ridgefield Main Street and Downtown Camas Association to put together Main Street Day—the first event of its kind in the region— with the goal of highlighting the spaces that characterize our region and provide a forum for champions of those spaces to share ideas and best practices. We engaged all of our senses during the day's tour by listening, feeling, tasting (yes, Root Beer Floats and hops were involved) and seeing our downtowns in a whole new light.

 Camas, Washington

Camas, Washington

37077843_2063312217075306_3540671112113291264_n.jpg
 CREDC Board Chair, Casey Wyckoff

CREDC Board Chair, Casey Wyckoff

Over the course of six hours aboard CTRAN’s Rosa Parks bus, city leaders and community champions toured six cities—Vancouver, Ridgefield, La Center, Battle Ground, Camas and Washougal—to learn about their unique history, vibrant spaces and initiatives that contribute to Clark County’s unparalleled quality of life.

The history of Clark County begins on Main Street. Vancouver’s Main Street was the first to be established in the county in 1857.
— Brad Richardson, Clark County Historical Museum

The day brought many ah-Ha moments. Some of the most notable include:

  • Understanding that cities have similar challenges and can leverage each other as resources.
  • Ideas for future efforts including, Main Street board of director swaps, city-to-city exchanges, participation at future conferences and more thoughtful and intentional collaboration,
  • Reinforcing messages that collaboration across the board is the key to success.
  • Concluding that what is good for one community is good for all Clark County communities. 

Overall, the tour made it clear that Clark County’s unique character is made up by the diverse range of amenities and vibrant spaces it offers – from Vancouver’s urban core, Ridgefield’s Americana charm, the beautiful tree-lined streets, unique boutiques and small-town charm of Camas, the vast display of local art in Washougal, the historic old town in Battle Ground to the trails and parks in La Center – and that it truly is the authenticity of each city that makes Clark County a great place to be!

We are committed to building on what makes Clark County a unique place to be, and you’ll see us continue to make it a priority as part of our new strategic plan.

Discover Clark County for yourself with Summer History Walking Tours and check out things to do in Vancouver, Camas, Ridgefield, Battle Ground, La Center and Washougal.

Here’s what folks said about Main Street Day:
Camas-Washougal Post Record
The Columbian
Vancouver Business Journal

Interim CREDC president eager to continue work

For Max Ault, taking the reins of the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) is a bit like getting to pitch a season for the home team.

Ault, who took over on an interim basis for outgoing president and CEO Mike Bomar this month, has been interested in Clark County economic development since he was a kid growing up in Yacolt. He joined CREDC in 2014 as business development manager and was later promoted to executive vice president, a position he held until Bomar left on May 1 to become director of economic development at the Port of Vancouver.

In his year as interim president, while the CREDC board works on the national search for a replacement, Ault said he’s eager to continue to build on the organization’s successes.

“I think my vision is really to continue working with our public and private sector partners,” he said. “Clark County will continue to grow and we can help business accelerate that growth and bring in new opportunities and jobs. That really motivates me and the team moving forward.”

More specifically, Ault said he plans to continue to secure more land and pre-existing buildings for economic development use, while also recruiting new talent and businesses to the area to help local industry grow.

And that jells perfectly with what the board had in mind, said Casey Wyckoff, CREDC Board Chair.

“Max Ault has become synonymous with economic development in ClarkCounty,” Wyckoff said in a news release. “His hard work and dedication to this community has earned him a strong reputation among our many private, public and nonprofit partners. We look forward to his leadership in continuing the strong momentum toward accomplishing the goals of our Economic Development Plan.”

Ault has pretty much always been in Clark County. As a kid, his mom was a Battle Ground school teacher and his father was an entrepreneur. And in part it was their love of civic engagement that got him interested in helping the local economy.

“Early on, my parents taught me to get involved in the community,” he said.

Following on that early interest, Ault decided to get his bachelor’s degree in public affairs from Washington State University Vancouver. While there, he threw himself into the process, working as a student lobbyist in Olympia with Tim Probst, who served in the state House of Representatives from 2009 to 2013, on a variety of issues related to education and the economy.

“I really leveraged my interest in community involvement at WSU-V,” he said.

After college, he worked on academic programming with the Gifford Pinchot Task Force, which was later rebranded as the Cascade Forest Conservancy.

“It was a great civic engagement activity,” he said.

While there, he hired a new director, CFO and program staff – and that caught the eye of CREDC, he said.

“After that I was asked to apply for CREDC by various board members,” Ault said proudly.

That was a bit like getting a call up to the big leagues for the home team, he said.

“I had been tracking the organization since my junior year in college,” Ault said. “Coming in it felt like a group I had already gotten to know really well.”

It’s hard for him to pick a favorite moment amongst the many he’s had in the last four years, but he said defining the agency’s role and working with partners have been some of the most fun parts of his job.

“It’s been a lot of fun and also very stimulating helping startups,” he said, adding that CREDC currently has about 130 partnerships with existing businesses.

In his tenure, Ault has been a recipient of the General George C. Marshall Public Leadership Award. He’s also a current participant in Leadership Clark County, and holds a number of civic leadership positions with area nonprofits and educational institutions.

So far, he said the transition between him and Bomar has been going very smoothly.

“The transition’s been really, really good,” Ault said. “It’s been a true partnership with Mike and I. His move to the Port just shows how strong of a business community we have here. Mike will be a great partner for us to work with at the Port, and we’d like to get some key wins for the Port going forward.”

Ault didn’t comment on whether he wants the job full time, but said he feels honored to serve as interim CEO. The board will formally decide on a long-term President and CEO over the next 12 months.

“Right now we’re just focusing on the next year and on growing our diverse base,” Ault said. “I’m part of a team, and we’ll support whoever the board selects. Really, I’m just extremely excited.”

CREDC Hires New Director of Communications

VANCOUVER, Wash. (April 26th, 2018) – The Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) announced today that it has hired Monica Santos-Pinacho as its new Director of Communications. In this role, Santos-Pinacho will lead CREDC’s internal and external communications strategies and platforms.

Santos-Pinacho joins the CREDC most recently from WE Communications in Portland, Ore., where she served as account manager for Microsoft’s Windows, Surface, Mixed Reality, and Education PR team. Previously, Santos-Pinacho held roles with Washington State University Vancouver and Clark College, developing and implementing programming supporting students and the community at-large. Her other prior experience includes four years as marketing manager assistant for the Clark County Event Center.

“We are extremely excited to have Monica join the team,” said CREDC interim President Max Ault. “Her passion, creativity, dynamic experience in integrated communications and strong commitment to the Southwest Washington community make her a tremendous asset that will help amplify CREDC’s mission and story both inside and outside of our region.”

Santos-Pinacho is a two-time LARGANT Scholar and holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing from Washington State University Vancouver, where she received the Chancellor’s Award for Student Achievement and the Carson College of Business Award for Excellence.

“I am thrilled to join the dynamic team at the CREDC,” said Santos-Pinacho. “I am a passionate storyteller, and I look forward to being a part of an already thriving team that is dedicated to accelerating business growth and innovation in Clark County.”

Santos-Pinacho’s first day will be April 30th and will report directly to the Interim President, Max Ault.                                                                                   

 
Monica Headshot 2018.JPG
 

CREDC Appoints Ault as Interim President

VANCOUVER, Wash. (April 19th, 2018) – At a regular meeting Thursday morning, the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) Board appointed Max Ault as Interim President beginning May 1st. The organization’s current President, Mike Bomar, will be transitioning to the Port of Vancouver, as their Director of Economic Development. Bomar has served as President since December of 2013.

Max Ault, currently the organization’s Executive Vice President, joined the team in 2014 as Business Development Manager. He has had increasing responsibilities in the organization over the past four years, including overseeing business growth initiatives, ranging from start-up assistance to major employer expansion projects, as well as representing the organization to the public, in addition to strategic partner and stakeholder groups when the President is not available.

“Max Ault has become synonymous with Economic Development in Clark County. His hard work and dedication to this community has earned him a strong reputation among our many private, public, and non-profit partners. We look forward to his leadership in continuing the strong momentum toward accomplishing the goals of our Economic Development Plan”, stated Casey Wyckoff, CREDC Board Chair.

“I’m honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve such a strong and engaged group of community leaders”, Ault said. “Our team depends on many others to make these plans work, and it’s great to feel the strong support for our mission.”

Ault will function as the chief executive officer (responsible for developing the Council’s strategic direction and work plan as adopted by the Board of Directors) and chief operating officer (responsible for implementing the Council’s work plan). The President reports to the Board of Directors and is supervised by the Chairman of the Board and Executive Committee. Ault will serve as Interim President for up to 12 months while the Board determines the options for a permanent replacement.

A lifelong resident of Clark County, Mr. Ault holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Affairs from Washington State University Vancouver and resides in Vancouver. Ault is a recipient of the General George C. Marshall Public Leadership Award, current participant in Leadership Clark County, and holds a number of civic leadership positions with area nonprofits and educational institutions.

 
 

CREDC seeks request for proposal - Videographer

REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL

VIDEOGRAPHER

The Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) is seeking the assistance of a professional videographer for the creation of multiple videos for our event, Main Street Day, highlighting the different Main Street Communities in Clark County, Washington. This event will take place on July 13, 2018 with the alternate date of August 10, 2018. The videographer will need to be available to be onsite for both of those dates. Electronic proposals for the CREDC Main Street Day Videos will be accepted until May 4th, 2018 at 5:00 PM PDT.

Should any questions arise concerning the proposal, please contact Samantha Codi Walker, Marketing & Events Manager (scodi@credc.org)

The CREDC reserves the right to accept or reject, in whole or part, any and all proposals.

PROJECT BACKGROUND

The Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) is a 501(c)(4) public-private partnership of over 160 investors and strategic partners working together to advance the economic vitality of Clark County, Washington through business relocation, growth, and innovation.

As part of Clark County’s Comprehensive Economic Development Plan, the CREDC will lead placemaking strategies to support and promote the unique amenities and initiatives that define the brand and character of Clark County. The 2018 Main Street Day will kick-off this goal by celebrating our downtowns while creating video marketing collateral that will be used in talent and business recruitment strategies.

This bus tour will feature Clark County’s Main Street Communities documented by a videographer. We will travel to the downtown communities of Vancouver, Camas, Ridgefield, Washougal, Battle Ground, and La Center over the course of a business day.   

SERVICES REQUIRED

The CREDC is seeking a videographer with experience in filming events and conducting interviews. This process will involve filming the day’s events, amenities at each Main Street area, and interviewing key leaders for each Main Street. 

SCOPE OF WORK

Deliverable 1 – Raw video footage of the (8 hour) day’s events, amenities of each Main Street area, and interviews.

Deliverable  2 – One 5-7 minute recap video of Main Street Day in its entirety, and one 1-2 minute video of the distinct amenities of each Main Street into one comprehensive video. 

Deliverable 3 – Create a separate Main Street video for each Main Street, each Main Street would be required to submit their requirements to the videographer.

Please include a separate budget number for each deliverable.

The scope of work should be completed by August 31, 2018.

DOCUMENTS TO REFERENCE

You may find more information on each Main Street under the following CREDC website link: http://www.credc.org/communities/

ENGAGEMENT

Main Street Day Committee: A group of Main Street directors will convene to provide input on the videographer’s materials.

PROJECT BUDGET

Submitted proposals must include a budget including a breakdown per task and each team member’s billable rates.

PRIMARY CONTACT

Samantha Codi Walker, Marketing & Events Manager
Columbia River Economic Development Council
805 Broadway Street, Suite 412
Vancouver, WA 98660
360.694.5006
scodi@credc.org

RFP QUESTIONS

All clarifying questions and inquiries must be submitted in writing via email to
Samantha Codi Walker (scodi@credc.org).

PROPOSAL REQUIREMENTS

  • Cover letter
  • Qualifications
  • Previous work examples
  • Approach to meet deliverables
  • Budget
  • References
  • Deadline and delivery: One electronic copy must be submitted to Samantha Codi Walker at scodi@credc.org no later than 5:00 p.m. on May 4th, 2018.

Vancouver-based RealWear goes into training

The thing about making new products is that people often invent their own uses. For hardware company RealWear, a new partnership could be a legitimate crossover.

The Vancouver-based hardware company is in talks to supply its head-mounted tablet computer, the HMT-1, to the National Basketball Retired Players Association for its efforts to introduce basketball to children in rural or developing areas overseas.

Jerome “Junkyard Dog” Williams, who spent nine seasons in the National Basketball Association, joined RealWear’s advisory board in February. He is also president of the NBRPA’s Las Vegas chapter. On Thursday, he spoke at the GROW Clark County networking event about how the two organizations sync.

“RealWear needs a platform to unleash this tech,” he said. “Basketball players and alumni love to train kids. It probably happens every day.”

RealWear’s HMT-1 has so far mainly been pitched to augment heavy industries. It provides a hands-free, voice-controlled computer and camera that could, for example, show instruction manuals to workers in the field or link them with co-workers back at headquarters.

Williams floated a different idea: Use it to teach basketball fundamentals more effectively. The NBRPA regularly sends ambassadors to China, Williams said, but trips are spaced months apart and lessons are soon forgotten. Like doctors in telemedicine, coaches may be able to coach without being there.

The partnership is not official, but Williams said their goals “align.”

“It’s all about training the next generation of basketball players,” he said. After touting the device’s abilities and access to third-party applications that could translate languages on the fly, he added “This device needs to be in the hands of every NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL player across the globe. Soccer. You can take this and give it to a parent and tell them what to do.”

While that is not an industrial use in a typical sense, chief revenue officer Brian Hamilton said they are exploring how adaptive its technology is. He said the device benefits certain uses that span several industries, from auto mechanics to surgeons.

“We’re an industrial company, this is another industrial use case,” he said.

Questions were posed about whether users would experience motion sickness during, say, a basketball game. CEO and founder Andy Lowery said that is a problem that can be solved with software adjustments to make the video flow easier.

The HMT-1 is RealWear’s flagship product. The company moved from Silicon Valley to Vancouver last summer and recently raised $17 million in venture capital funding.

L.A. creative agency moves to Vancouver

The Columbian

An ambitious digital marketing concern from Los Angeles is the latest company to make Vancouver its new home base, and it plans to hit the ground running.

GTMA, formerly GoToMyApartment, is a 55-person marketing firm specializing in the booming business of multifamily housing. It builds websites, produces videos and writes marketing content for the likes of builders and property managers.

Its new headquarters as of March 1 is an office at the Columbia Tech Center, 1101 S.E. Tech Center Drive, Suite 155.

Moving to the Vancouver-Portland metropolitan area drops the company into a market strong in development but without the challenges of doing business in California, said co-founder and CEO Joshua Swanson.

“The regulation in California, the expense, the cost of living was such that if we continued growing, we’d lose our strategic advantage there and lose some of our talent,” he said.

GTMA plans to immediately hire about 20 people in Vancouver and nearly 200 people over the next five years. The firm already does some business in the area, such as the NV Apartments and Block 17 Apartments in Northwest Portland.

The company offers a program that dispatches people to other, emerging markets for long stays. The firm, with offices in Seattle, Phoenix, Dallas, and Santa Cruz, Calif., said it tries to be authentic in knowing an area.

“We’re a virtual business. We can work from anywhere. But to tell a really good story, we need to have a hyper-local voice,” Swanson said. “Even shopping around Vancouver, I’ve found the divide between east county and west county. That kind of nuance you won’t find unless you live here.

“You need to understand your microbreweries and Burgervilles of the world that have a great local story and a history in the marketplace,” he added.

Founded in 2010, the company grew rapidly in Los Angeles and was named among the fastest growing companies in the U.S. by Inc. Magazine. But Swanson said California’s state income taxes and business taxes stifled growth.

When executives polled workers about where they could see themselves moving, Portland ranked high.

“I think Portland strikes a chord with Southern Californians because of the political environment, the cultural environment — just the entire living environment,” he said. “They see it as the sweater-wearing version of Los Angeles. My team being full of millennials, they liked the idea of living there.”

Mike Bomar, executive director of the Columbia River Economic Development Council, said they will fit in well with the construction companies around here.

Clark County has “really good builders and developers who want to be at the bleeding edge of how they sell their apartments, and I think that leads to (GTMA),” he said.

CREDC Announces 2018 Officers and New Board Members

At its annual meeting on January 24, 2018, the investors of the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) elected their new members to serve on the 2018 Board of Directors. The new Board then elected the 2018 officers and private sector Executive Committee members at a special Board meeting immediately following.     

“This CREDC Board is truly an amazing group of leaders that are dedicated and driven to see continued positive impact in our communities,” said Casey Wyckoff, President/Principal, LSW Architects and current CREDC Board Chair. “The organization is eager to pursue continued growth and success in 2018.”

CREDC’s 2018 officers leading the Board of Directors are:

  1. Chair (2018-2019): Casey Wyckoff, LSW Architects 
  2. Vice Chair (2018-2019): Lisa Lowe, Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt
  3. Immediate Past Chair (2018-2019): Greg Seifert, Biggs Insurance Services
  4. Treasurer (2018): Lisa Dow, Columbia Bank  
  5. Secretary (2018): Helen Devery, BergerABAM

The following individuals were elected to a three-year term on the CREDC Board of Directors:

1. Mike Bach, Frito-Lay
2. Gena Bailey, Kaiser Permanente
3. Ben Bagherpour, SEH America
4. Augusto Bassanini, United Grain Corp
5. Alan Garcia, NW Natural
6. Brian Knight, WRK Engineers
7. Mark Mantei, The Vancouver Clinic
8. Tracy Wilson, DeWils Industries

Four Directors Emeritus were voted in for a one-year term:

  1. Bryce Helgerson, Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center
  2. Steve Horenstein, Horenstein Law Group
  3. Matt Krueger, PacTrust
  4. Brian Wolfe, Brian H. Wolfe, P.C. 

 

Seven private sector members were elected to serve on the 2018 Executive Committee:

  1. Ben Bagherpour, SEH America
  2. Bill Dudley, Landerholm, P.S.
  3. Michelle Erickson, Umpqua Bank
  4. Matt Krueger, PacTrust
  5. Kevin Tapani, Tapani Inc
  6. Tracy Wilson, DeWils Industries
  7. Mei Wu, SmartRG

“We are truly excited about the caliber of our new and existing board members,” said Mike Bomar, President, CREDC. “As we take on an ambitious strategic plan, we appreciate our top business and community leaders really stepping up to help us achieve some lofty goals this year and beyond.”

The full list of the 2018 CREDC Board of Directors can be found HERE.

 

Clark County looks ahead

By nearly all measures, Clark County has enjoyed back-to-back years of strong economic growth. The outlook is for more of the same in 2018.

“Even with expected increases in (commercial) loan interest rates, we see more growth ahead,” said Greg Seifert, board chair of the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC).

The CREDC is the county’s go-to organization for job retention and new job recruitment. This year, four new employers set up shop in the county with the help of development council staff. In addition, 15 existing employers launched successful expansion projects with CREDC assistance.

“These projects represent 500 new jobs and about $400 million in capital investment,” Seifert said. “The numbers from 2016 were much the same.”

Coming in 2018, Seifert said, is the new Home Depot QuoteCenter, which will occupy 45,000 square feet and employ 200 people inside Quad Industrial Park. QuoteCenter software (developed in Vancouver) is already being used by professional contractors placing large Home Depot orders. The expanded operation will serve customers throughout the U.S.

Eventually, the 22-acre Quad Industrial Park, just east of Grand Central on state Highway 14, is expected to include as much as 400,000 square feet of commercial and retail construction. Owner/developer is Vancouver-based Killian Pacific.

Measuring the economy

Business development activity, however, is one way to look at the local economy. Total job growth is another. Through October, county-based employers had added a total of 7,300 new jobs for a strong annual growth rate of 4.7 percent. That’s far better the statewide average of 2.3 percent or the U.S. annual job creation rate of just 0.6 percent.

The Washington Department of Revenue reported that total taxable retail sales in the county were up 10 percent in the second quarter over the same three months in 2016. Homebuilding, both single-family and multifamily, continued strong.

In his latest report, state labor analyst Scott Bailey said Clark County’s most recent unemployment rate of 4.4 percent was the lowest jobless rate since 1999.

He said the county is enjoying “rapid, diversified employment growth.”

Economic challenges

But while indicators are positive, the county faces some economic challenges, Seifert said.

“We have great assets in Clark College and Washington State University Vancouver and in our K-12 school districts, but we now are making a big push to look at (training) tracks other than just precollege,” he said.

This is in response to local employers who say they can not find enough qualified new employees in sectors such as manufacturing, construction and health care. Many of these jobs do not require a college degree.

“We are digging deeper into school districts for how we can address this issue,” Seifert said.

Also, lack of affordable housing continues to be a problem for the county and for the Portland-Vancouver Metro area. According to government reports, the rate of homelessness in the metro area has jumped 10 percent in the past two years with the housing crisis forcing low-income or unemployed people onto the streets.

Homebuilders are trying to catch up to the situation. Year-to-date through November, 1,581 permits have been issued for single-family home construction in Clark County. That is 136 more permits than issued in the same time frame in 2016. Another 389 permits have been issued for commercial project construction, also up from last year.

Aaron Helmes, a board member of the Building Industry Association (BIA) of Clark County, recently described 2017, as “another solid year” for the homebuilding industry. But land availability and a shortage of skilled laborers are challenges, he said. He expects another solid year in 2018 despite rising mortgage interest rates.

Mike Bomar, CREDC president and CEO, also sees another year of strong economic growth in Clark County.

“We are working to problem-solve with smaller- to medium-sized businesses that want to expand,” Bomar said.

Among those businesses are those combining construction planning and management with new efficient technologies. Bomar sees this as an emerging employment node for the region.

In the coming year, the CREDC, he said, will focus on the strategic areas of software, computers and electronics, metals and machinery, life sciences and clean tech. The council is also working to support expansion of professional services businesses, logistics and distribution, construction and healthcare.

National comparisons

New York-based financial technology company, SmartAsset, said Clark County – with a population of 450,000 – ranked No. 5 among all counties in Washington state for the most overall economic growth during the past four years. According to the research, the county saw business growth of 7.1 percent and new single-family home construction (as measured by new permits per 1,000 of existing homes) as second only to King County.

The Vancouver Waterfront Development is just one of numerous development projects currently going on in the Clark County area.
Courtesy of CREDC

2017 Clark County Economy at a Glance

New jobs: 7,300, up 4.7 percent
Taxable retail sales: Up 10 percent over 2016
Single-family home building permits: 1,581, up 9.4 percent
Home sales: 8,091, unchanged from 2016
Home median sale price: $325,000, up 12 percent

Astronaut stresses importance of life sciences in workforce

Astronaut Michael Barratt has some advice for students wondering if those math, science and English classes are really worth it: You never know what you’re going to need.

Barratt, who has five kids and grew up in Clark County, said he’s heard the oft-repeated school kid complaint “I’m never going to use this” about un-liked subject matter more times than he’d care to count. But as a medical doctor who had to learn the technical skills required to work at NASA, he said he’s been constantly surprised by how often those once-unloved skills come in handy.

“I’m a life sciences dweeb, but I use math all the time,” Barratt said. “I write all the time, too. If you can’t write and communicate, they won’t glom onto your ideas. We need all those skill sets.”

Barratt spoke last week at the Pearson Air Museum Historic Hanger as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week in Vancouver. The event, part of the GROW Clark County series, was sponsored by Washington State University Vancouver’s Business Growth Mentor and Analysis Program and the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC).

“Life sciences (Barratt’s area of expertise) is one of our target sectors for economic growth,” said Mike Bomar, president of CREDC. “Part of that is we want to make sure kids growing up in the system here can see successful industry professionals. I think the idea of a NASA astronaut as the ultimate career shows it can be done here, and that our students should follow their dreams.”

Barratt graduated from Camas High School in 1977, and his parents still live in the city. He got his zoology degree from the University of Washington in 1981 and his M.D. from Northwestern in 1985.

“My big thing is human life science,” Barratt said. “Humans in space, adaptation, counter adaptation. It’s a whole new discipline of physiology.”

The human body can do things weightless that it can’t do on the ground, which is something Barratt has spent a considerable amount of time studying over his career. Diseases also behave differently in space, as does the human central nervous system. And it’s also a great environment to study osteoporosis, which is amplified in zero gravity.

“(Going into space is) like switching osteoporosis on and off,” Barratt said. “You can test drugs and get results fast because of that.”

In his career, Barratt helped develop NASA’s space medicine program and was medical operations lead for the International Space Station. He’s completed two space flights and also co-edited the book “Principles of Clinical Medicine for Space Flight” in 2008.

Going into NASA Barratt had a strong background in biology and he also knew how to speak Russian. But he found he had a lot more learning to do once he joined the agency.

“When you first show up for work as an astronaut, they say ‘we’re very appreciative of your skills, now you’re going to school again,’” Barratt said. “I had a lot of engineering to learn during basic astronaut training, but I had my own advantages. I knew Russian and zoology. So, after my fellow astronauts got to watch me struggle with engineering, I got to watch them struggle learning Russian.”

Having scientists and astronauts learn each others’ skills is actually a huge benefit – it helps foster new ideas and crossover technologies, along with being absolutely necessary in conditions where overlapping skill sets could save your life, he said.

“We all had our areas of discomfort as we had to learn each other’s worlds,” Barratt said. “But I think that’s a good thing. One thing that’s common in the space world is diversity of interest. It puts together everything I love.”

There’s also a lot of scientific research that can only happen in zero gravity, he said.

For instance, pharmaceutical companies can help fast-track medications by using the environment to grow larger, more perfect protein crystals than can be grown on Earth. The companies analyze the crystal growth and use the data to help them create better computer models of how carbohydrates, nucleic acids and proteins work.

“You can grow really big ones that make them really easy to analyze,” Barratt said.

Cell cultures also work better in space. On earth, you can only grow cell cultures a few cells deep, but if you take away gravity, you can grow cell cultures that are far deeper and grow more quickly.

“We’ve accelerated vaccines for typhus for instance (using cell cultures in space),” he said.

Disease outbreaks in space are also a concern. NASA quarantines astronauts for about two weeks before they fly.

“I was up there once when (the quarantine) didn’t work, and we had a cold spread,” Barratt said. “In zero G there’s no place to drain your sinuses, so your head feels like it’s going to explode.”

Space environments turn into their own small ecosystems, with whatever lives in the air, water, and on or in the crew becomes its own microbiome. That’s something Barratt also wants to study more, because it will impact future space exploration and outposts.

“It’s something we just started to study,” Barratt said. “We’re also starting to adopt genetic techniques, proteomics, all the -omics sciences in looking at that.”

Barratt gets back to Camas a few times a year to visit his parents, he said. He was unfamiliar with Vancouver’s $1.5 billion Waterfront Development Project when he arrived, but said he’s excited to see it come together.

“It sounds awesome to me because I grew up there,” Barratt said. “I’m an entrepreneur, and I like things like that.”

He said Washington’s quality of life and its plethora of high tech companies bodes well for the state and for Clark County to grow a successful life sciences economy.

“To have that in the backyard of where I grew up, that’s awesome,” he said.

Fall Luncheon: Planning for the Future

Last Thursday, the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) delivered an overview of Clark County’s new Comprehensive Economic Development Plan, followed by a candid discussion with industry professionals about opportunities and challenges facing their businesses. A common theme emerged that was summed up well by panelist Mei Wu, of Smart RG: It’s about talent, talent, and talent. Whether it’s traditional manufacturing, high-tech R&D, or software, businesses are all focused on, and struggling with, attracting and retaining quality employees. The CREDC and its partners will work on a variety of fronts to address this over the life of the new plan.

Educational Partnerships: Much of the panel discussion centered on the relationship between employers and the education community. From early education and our K12 system to our higher education institutions, there is a charge for employers and academics to come together to both help students find their passion, and for employers to meet their staffing needs. While there was mixed opinion on the value employers place on applicants’ grade point averages, the group agreed that a prospective employee’s drive, teamwork, and problem solving skills were essential in today’s workplace. Panelists also highlighted the value that being intentional around diversity can bring to the bottom line and longevity of a company.

Bridging the Gap: While each of the panelists highlighted the individual strengths of Clark County within the region, they also highlighted the importance of being connected. As we build more high-level professional job opportunities in Clark County, we must consider that access to the greater regional job market for employees’ spouses is critical to a solid talent attraction and retention strategies. That means we must support transportation policies that improve multi-modal connections throughout the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) over projects that isolate us from broader opportunities and amenities.

We look forward to continuing to work with a broad range of partners in Clark County and beyond who believe, as we do, that we are in a transformative time. As we build upon the culture, history, and investments that have made this community great, we need your input and engagement to make our combined vision a reality. Find out more about how you can get involved here : http://www.credc.org/strategic-initiatives/

The Home Depot to Expand Corporate Office at New Facility in Vancouver, WA

Press
Home Depot corporate office coming to Vancouver, to employ 200

Big things heading to Lower Grand

The Home Depot will expand at new facility in Vancouver

Home Depot actively hiring as it constructs new corporate office in Vancouver

 

VANCOUVER, Wash. (October 13, 2017) – Construction is officially underway on the first phase of development at Vancouver’s newest employment center, located east of the Grand Central Shopping center on Columbia House Boulevard. Expected to be completed in June 2018, the first building will welcome the Home Depot QuoteCenter (HDQC) as an anchor tenant of the new development.

Initially launched as a startup in Vancouver, QuoteCenter is a software application used by Home Depot store associates in over 2,000 locations nationwide to facilitate large product orders to professional contractors.

The 45,000 square foot facility will serve as the national headquarters for the HDQC division and is anticipated to house 200 employees, ranging from entry-level technical support to senior engineers, analysts, user experience (UX) designers and product managers. The HDQC currently has 130 employees in Vancouver that will be consolidated at the new headquarters and is actively hiring to meet its expansion needs.

“We’re thrilled to be part of the growth in Clark County and Vancouver and the team is very much looking forward to the new, contemporary facility,” said Nate Copper, general manager of Home Depot QuoteCenter.

“We are very excited that the Home Depot QuoteCenter chose to continue calling Vancouver home for their expansion, and appreciate the collaboration of both private and public sector partners working to find the best solution to meet the needs of this company,” said Mike Bomar, president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC). “Clark County is gaining a reputation as a compelling choice for software and technology companies like HDQC who value access to a talented workforce paired with a high quality of living.”

Located in the City of Vancouver’s Lower Grand Employment Area, the employment center is anticipated to include 300,000-400,000 square feet of commercial office and retail space over 22 acres of land at full buildout.

“The Lower Grand Employment Area is a highly visible site that sits at the gateway to both Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and the downtown core,” said Eric Holmes, city manager for the City of Vancouver. “The City has long recognized the potential impact strategic development of this area can Page 2 of 2 have for the community and we are looking forward to seeing years of dedicated work by City planning staff in collaboration with the private partners coming to fruition.”

“We are fortunate to be a part of this community and have the opportunity to collaborate with the City of Vancouver, CREDC and the dynamic team at Home Depot. We are focused on reinventing the ‘business park’ model by creating an amenity rich collection of compelling work spaces with a great connection to inviting outdoor elements,” said Lance Killian, president of Killian Pacific.

Projections anticipate the completed site will support 1,500-3,000 direct jobs with average annual wages of $69,000, with a total of 2,510-5,020 total jobs supported throughout Clark County. The estimated economic impact includes annual payroll of $144-288 million and ongoing property and sales tax revenues of $3.4-6.3 million.

About The Home Depot QuoteCenter
At QuoteCenter, we're changing the way our colleagues at The Home Depot help their customers. Using leading-edge analytics and the latest web technologies, we're developing sales applications from the ground up, on a greenfield platform with a reactive microservices architecture. We're building change that's empowering over 300,000 associates in over 2,000 stores to help millions of customers move forward. www.quotecenter.com/

About Killian Pacific
Killian Pacific, for over 45 years, has been committed to enhancing communities for the long-term by developing real estate projects that improve the quality of life throughout Oregon and Washington. From day one, founder George Killian understood that business for him meant doing the right thing, maintaining strong relationships, and investing in local communities for the long term. These values still guide our company to this day. www.killianpacific.com.

Wearable-tech firm RealWear finding Fort Vancouver a good fit

RealWear is trading in the sleek, battleship-looking offices of Silicon Valley for one that predates World War I.

The maker of wearable tech, founded in Milpitas, Calif., said Tuesday it has officially named its office at the Fort Vancouver Artillery Barracks its new headquarters. The company leased the 12,000-square-foot space in the summer and moved in its first employees last week.

“We lovingly call it Fort RealWear,” said CEO Andy Lowery, a 25-year military veteran who started his company while in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

RealWear’s arrival was announced in the spring, during Mayor Tim Leavitt’s annual State of the City Address.

The company remained undecided on whether it would keep its headquarters in Silicon Valley, from which the latest tech inventions often originate. RealWear’s flagship device, the HMT-1, is a helmet-mounted display and microphone that links in-the-field workers with faraway support staff. That device has applications in several private industries as well as in the military.

However, Vancouver has become its home because Lowery was impressed with the community and local officials, he said. And the capital that props up big tech hubs like Silicon Valley and Seattle is available here, as well, he said. RealWear has already attracted substantial private investment, he said.

“Since I’ve been here, everything is falling into place for RealWear,” said Lowery, 45.

Built in 1904, the two-story artillery barracks once housed U.S. infantrymen where engineering stations now rest and computer cords slink across the floor. It is one of a handful of structures the Fort Vancouver National Trust has been refurbishing since February 2016.

With more than 20 full-time employees already in Vancouver, Lowery is optimistic they will top 30 by the end of the year, and top 100 by the end of 2018. He said local job openings have been filled almost as soon as they are posted.

“We put out a requisition for jobs — a general manager, an office manager — (and) we received over 100 applicants within a 24-hour period,” he said, adding that RealWear’s other employees are still in California, as well as salespeople on other continents.

RealWear’s news comes on the heels of receiving a $200,000 grant from the state Department of Commerce. The department tapped into its Economic Development Strategic Reserve Fund, which uses unclaimed lottery prize money to support business recruitment to the state.

Many businesses apply for these funds, and ultimately, it’s Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision whom to award. According to the Columbia River Economic Development Council, slightly more than $1 million has been awarded in Clark County in recent years. Other winners include AbSci LLC and Banfield Pet Hospital.

Lowery said the grant stipulates money has to pay for permanent improvements to the workplace. He said they will use it to set up security cameras, some internet infrastructure and pay for some design consultations for new labs.

The CEO said the grant signals a lot of optimism about the tech scene here.

“I’m telling you this because it’s absolutely dead true: The governor believes Southwest Washington is a ripe area for a technical renaissance,” he said.

Life sciences industry continues to emerge

Clark County’s biotech industry may not be as richly developed as its counterparts in Seattle or Bothell, but local economic developers say the sector is poised for new growth.

Biotech, the state’s fifth largest industry, has been gaining a foothold in Southwest Washington, with companies like CytoDyn, AbSci LLC, Molecular Testing Labs and Northwest Natural Products among its ranks. Across the state, the sector supports more than 98,000 jobs and generates more than $12.5 billion in revenues. In Clark County, there are already 73 companies employing about 20,500 workers, with more likely on the way, said Mike Bomar, president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council.

“The life sciences cluster is seen as an emerging opportunity for Clark County with strong potential for job growth and firm formation,” Bomar said.

The CREDC has made the biotech sector a key part of its new 2017 strategic plan, and the agency is looking to build more partnerships to better understand the industry and its needs.

“It has been identified as one of five strategic sectors for CREDC to focus efforts on in our new 2017 Comprehensive Economic Development Plan,” said Bomar. “Efforts in recent years have centered primarily on building relationships with key industry partners throughout the region, better understanding the needs of the sector, and identifying gaps in the local ecosystem that could hinder future growth.”

CREDC’s work will focus on aligning strategies, committees, marketing and other activities around the sector, Bomar added.

“We will be collaborating closely with industry partners to identify what can be done at the local, regional, state and federal levels to address the needs of each of these sectors to support existing company growth and attract new companies to Clark County,” he said.

The sector’s growth is already starting to chug along in Southwest Washington. From 2012 to 2016, it grew 8.8 percent in Clark County, and that growth is forecasted to increase by an additional 12.5 percent by 2026, Bomar said.

Biotech, a term often used interchangeably with “life sciences,” refers to the scientific nexus of technology and biology. Companies in the sector are often involved in medical breakthroughs, solving environmental issues, developing reliable food sources, streamlining industrial manufacturing processes and creating new energy sources.

Clark County’s companies tend to be focused on the pharmaceutical, biomedical and chemical manufacturing sectors of the industry, although most of the sub-sects of biotechnology are present, Bomar said.

As an example, CytoDyn is developing an HIV treatment called “Pro 140” that uses antibodies to protect human T cells and basically lock out attempts by the HIV virus to penetrate them, said Nader Pourhassan, CEO.

“For the virus to get into the cell, it has to bind to two receptors on the surface of the cell,” Pourhassan explained. “If Pro 140 binds to one of those exact sites, the HIV can’t get in.”

CytoDyn has been in the area for some time. Pourhassan took over as CEO in 2008 and moved to Vancouver from Oregon to help build the company.

Pourhassan said he wants to keep the company in Vancouver, although in his case, if CytoDyn gets bought out by a big pharmaceutical company, that could change.

That often happens with smaller medically-focused biotech companies – they have to move to other parts of the country when they’re absorbed, Pourhassan explained.

Another biotech industry example, Absci LLC, which formed in Portland in 2011, moved to Vancouver in 2016. It has a protein manufacturing technology called SoluPro that reduces the production costs of therapeutic proteins and antibodies for medical treatment.

Absci made the jump across the river after renovating the top floor of downtown Vancouver’s Hudson Building. The firm turned the space into a state-of-the-art wet lab facility with an open layout to encourage collaboration between teams and departments. Wet labs are especially hard to find when biotech companies are looking for space, so the renovations were a big help, officials said.

Many companies are also drawn by access to some of the big healthcare players in the region, such as Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and locally-headquartered healthcare systems like Kaiser and PeaceHealth, Bomar said.

“Having such major healthcare players as PeaceHealth, Legacy Health, The Vancouver Clinic and Kaiser Permanente all headquartered in, or with a significant presence in Clark County, provides a strategic advantage in developing, attracting and retaining the skilled talent base needed to also support the life sciences sector,” Bomar said.

Those medical resources were certainly a draw for CytoDyn, which is working on clinical trials with both OHSU and Providence Medical Group in Vancouver, Pourhassan said.

Regional resources, and even waterfront development projects in both Vancouver and Portland, are also helping to build the sector, Bomar explained.

“In addition to the established presence of such players as OHSU, new developments such as the creation of the Knight Cancer Institute, efforts to advance the Innovation Quadrant Zone for bioscience on Portland’s South Waterfront, our own waterfront redevelopment projects here in Clark County, and a new life sciences building proposed for the WSU Vancouver campus, the Greater Portland region (including Clark County) is gaining prominence as an emerging draw for life sciences companies and talent,” he said.

There’s also some synergy potential to grow the computer technology side of the industry.
“There is an increasing intersection between life sciences and digital technology as advances in precision medicine continue to evolve, creating potential overlap with the software sector,” said Bomar.

Education is also key factor to spur growth in the industry, and schools in Clark County have been developing programs with organizations like the CREDC to help foster the workforce needs of the industry.

As part of its development plan, CREDC is looking for gaps in existing educational programs to see if other degrees and certificates would benefit the sector. Jobs in the industry pay very well, with a Washington industry average salary of $86,400 a year – 37 percent higher than the average wage for other private sector jobs, Bomar said.

“The life sciences sector is highly reliant upon a strong, well-educated workforce that draws from the research and science, healthcare professional, and medical services talent clusters,” Bomar said. “We are incredibly fortunate to have such a strong K-20 education system already in place that supports the growth of this talent pool, including WSU Vancouver (the region’s only tier one research institution), Henrietta Lacks Health & Bioscience High School, and the new dedicated STEM building at Clark College.”

CREDC Adopts New Strategic Plan to Guide Economic Development Efforts

On August 24, 2017, the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) Board of Directors (Board) officially adopted Phase II of the 2017 Clark County Comprehensive Economic Development Plan (Plan). Phase I of the Plan was previously adopted by the Board on April 27, 2017. The Plan, which aligns with the Greater Portland 2020 regional economic development action plan, establishes a 20-year vision with countywide goals and objectives, outlines an implementation plan to achieve specific action items over the next five years, and identifies key metrics to track and report progress. 

The CREDC was awarded a matching grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to help fund Phase II of the Plan, which included an in-depth regional competitiveness analysis of communities with similar target sectors, a detailed action plan with lead partners, metrics, and resources, a key performance indicator tool, and an executive summary. Leland Consulting Group (LCG) was contracted to complete both phases of the Plan in coordination with CREDC and with extensive input from local stakeholders. 

“The organization is committed to improving overall economic prosperity throughout Clark County,” said Greg Seifert, Chair, CREDC Board of Directors. “This strategic plan represents the culmination of nine months of intensive stakeholder engagement and input from local business and community leaders coming together to define the shared priorities and goals that can have the greatest impact.”

Over two hundred local partners representing cities, ports, education, workforce, downtown associations, nonprofits, chambers and businesses were engaged during a nine-month process to collaborate, create and refine the direction of this work. The Plan is intended to guide the scope of CREDC work plans and focus the collective energies of all economic development partners in the area around the shared goals and objectives identified to achieve the long-term vision that:

  • Clark County is one of the most inclusive, healthy, and amenity-rich communities in the country. With a continued focus to grow a diverse base of community-minded employers, talent (inside and outside the region) sees greater opportunity here than anywhere else in the country. 

    The kickoff to the Plan involved detailed one-on-one interviews with private sector business leaders facilitated by the Institute for Public Deliberation at Washington State University Vancouver, focused on identifying the opportunities and barriers to doing business in Clark County. An existing conditions and competitive analysis was also completed by LCG to provide a demographic, social and economic baseline for identifying the county’s assets and challenges. 

The strategic priorities identified through stakeholder engagement and data analysis emphasize the importance of building from within, cultivating talent, and promoting the quality of place. The goals and objectives that guide the specific action items identified in the Plan are as follows:

  • Goal 1: Expand the existing business base
    • Objectives:
      • Become industry experts
      • Strategically market industry clusters
      • Build a startup ecosystem
         
  • Goal 2: Support people
    • Objectives:
      • Foster skills development
      • Prepare youth for economic opportunity
      • Launch a brain gain initiative
      • Promote an ethical and just society through an intentional commitment to inclusion, equity and diversity
         
  • Goal 3: Create place
    • Objectives:
      • Each community creates a placemaking strategy
      • Embrace economic opportunity in our urban center
      • CREDC tells the story of place
      • Make employment areas desired by industry clusters shovel ready
      • Determine all transportation needs on a regional level that specifically support economic development

Five target sectors were identified as having the greatest potential for new growth based on industrial and occupational evaluations, as well as emerging versus retracting industry strengths. While CREDC will continue to work with many additional industries which will no doubt continue to be significant drivers of the local economy, the following target sectors will help focus the organization’s strategic efforts to move the needle on economic development:

  • Computer and Electronics
  • Clean Tech
  • Software
  • Metals and Machinery
  • Life Sciences

CREDC will now shift efforts to align internal work plans and committees around the target sectors and specific action items identified to achieve the goals and objectives of the Plan. 

“This strategic plan was truly shaped by the community, for the community,” said Mike Bomar, President, CREDC. “The successful implementation of the Plan is dependent upon the continuation of strong collaboration with our private, public, education, and nonprofit partners, each with a clear understanding of their role in achieving our unified vision of economic prosperity.” 

An executive summary along with the full 2017 Clark County Comprehensive Economic Development Plan can be found here. 

Press: 
The Columbian: CREDC puts focus on talent

GROW Clark County: Wonder Women in Tech

A perfect summer evening at 3Peaks Public House and Taproom in Ridgefield was the setting for a thought-provoking discussion with three women who are changing the face of technology. 

Nationally, the proportion of women in computer science and tech fields has decreased from 37 percent in the 1980s to less than 18 percent today, and just 20 percent of Fortune 100 CIO positions were held by women in 2016.  As we work to grow a competitive and diverse economy that positively impacts our entire community, we can’t afford to NOT actively attract women to the field.  

The conversation explored all sides of the topic, including:

  •   What women uniquely contribute to technology and innovation;
  •   What employers can do to create a welcoming workplace for women;
  •   What women can do to succeed in this male-dominated field.

Each panelist was unique in the stage of her tech career and the path she is taking:

Kathryn Brown, CEO, ScoutSavvy
As a Women Studies major from Maine State University, her path to a tech industry career was not a straight line.  Along the way she realized that proactive steps are needed to encourage women into the tech industry and to help employers make it easy to hire.  Her firm ScoutSavvy is tailored to users with an approach similar to online dating sites, such as Match.com.  Employers and job seekers build their profiles and the software identifies potential matches between employer and professional. 

Caterina Paun, Director of Women Who Code Portland
Both of Caterina’s parents are engineers, so choosing a tech career came naturally to her.  She currently works as a UX (user experience) Engineer and in her eight years in the profession has often been the only woman on the team.  In addition to her “day job,” Caterina is the director of Women Who Code Portland.  This nonprofit organization seeks to “inspire women to excel in technology careers by creating a global, connected community of women in technology.”

Dorota Shortell, CEO, Simplexity Product Development
Dorota Shortell took over for the founder of Simplexity Product Development in 2010 after working in the company as a senior mechanical engineer, project manager, and director of the Vancouver office. Simplexity is an engineering design service company that designs products like 3D printers, biotech equipment, wearables, and consumer products.  Dorota has almost 20 years of new product development experience and holds a U.S. patent. She graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and earned her master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. 

Employers Need Women on their Teams
Women bring a unique perspective to the profession and one that all employers should embrace to reach the highest level of innovation.  Women typically are focused on the achievements of the team over the achievement of themselves as individuals.  Women have different life experiences that they can bring to the creative side of tech.  These ideas can spur innovation in ways that a male-only workforce cannot. 

A CIO for a major U.S. company shared with me that when they hired one female on to their programming team the entire atmosphere changed.  Now, instead of individuals glued to their screens, there is information sharing, team building and new creative innovation happening.  The point was made that this extends beyond just women, and that having a diversity of backgrounds and experiences on a team can foster new ideas and creative problem-solving.   

Hire AND Retain Women
Hiring women into a male-dominated unit requires employers to think about how to create a healthy environment that will retain them.  As Kathryn Brown pointed out, give women challenging work and find ways to integrate us with our male counterparts.  Once you have one women on board, more will be interested to join your firm, says Caterina Paun.  Actively encourage conversation and activities where all can participate.  Executives can serve as role models for the kind of energy and interaction they want among their IT teams.

Advice for Women in Tech
Our panelists had lots of advice for those starting out in tech as well as those who are well into their careers.   

  • Tell your story to everyone who will listen.  Kathryn reluctantly told the story of her new tech company to a guest at a party.  To her surprise, he was also in the field and very interested to help her connect with key partners. 
  • Give a hand up to a newer colleague.  Dorota makes it a point to make time to meet with younger women seeking advice on how to make their way in the tech field.  Sharing your rolodex was another approach that our panelists use to help other women succeed.

Overall, the evening provided many new insights for all.  With so few women in tech today, this is an opportunity for all employers to create a differential advantage for their company by actively seeking to build an inviting workplace for a more diverse range of talent, including women.

Written by: Dr. Jane Cote, WSU Vancouver

Kyocera celebrates expansion in Vancouver, Washington

Kyocera Industrial Ceramics Corporation celebrated the completion of a $10 million expansion project in Vancouver on Thursday.

The project, which broke ground last April, increased the size of Kyocera’s 23,000-square-foot Vancouver manufacturing facility by about 50 percent, to 63,000 square feet. The plant is located at 5713 E Fourth Plain Blvd.

Robert Whisler, president of Kyocera America Inc., said the expansion will create at least 50 new jobs over the next few years. The facility currently employs approximately 140 employees.

“This market (for ceramics) is growing very quickly,” said Whisler. “In fact, we probably have a need for more space than this new expansion represents, already. So that’s really good news.”

Kyocera’s ceramics are used in high-performance, high-reliability applications, with roles in the semiconductor, aerospace, automotive, medical and renewable energy markets.

“The technology for ceramics and what they’re used for is in almost every industry… and the demand for it continues to grow,” Whisler explained. “Ceramic provides a material that isn’t affected by heat like metal is. It’s wear resistant and chemical resistant.”

As long as business conditions remain favorable, Whisler said, “this is just the beginning of further expansions.”

Kyocera companies have manufactured in Vancouver since 1986, with the current operations active since 1992.

Article & photo by Vancouver Business Journal